Sometimes reality can be a shock, especially when you go home for the holidays and realize that mom and dad aren’t doing quite as well as they sound over the telephone.

Baptist Retirement Center

Going home for the holidays, or even having parents come for a visit, is a time of significance for adult children, as this presents time to make an in-person assessment of the well-being of senior family members. For families that are long distance, this is especially important as they may not get much time together the rest of the year. Baptist Retirement Community, the only continuing care retirement community in the Concho Valley, has some tips and advice for adult children on what to look for. The community says it is important to consider the total wellness of your loved one including physical well-being, emotional well-being, day-to-day actions and home environments.

“Observing these areas will assist you in determining if anything is askew, whether it be something subtle or a major variation,” Quinda Feil-Duncan, executive director of Baptist Retirement Community. “When observing physical health you will want to take note of signs of weight loss, hygiene, balance and mobility.  In regard to their emotional state, variations in behavior could be indicators of depression, anxiety, dementia or other stressors that are taking a toll on your loved one. Have there been any variations in their social habits? Perhaps you notice that they have stopped reading the paper or doing crosswords like they usually do. These could be signs that something may be wrong on an emotional level.”

In addition to physical and emotional well-being, day-to-day actions are helpful in determining if your loved one could use extra assistance. You should check to make sure bills are getting paid on time, see if they have any new, unreasonable spending habits, do the math on their medications to make sure they are taking them on time or taking them at all and see if they leave belongings in strange places, such as putting eyeglasses in the fridge. Try doing daily tasks with them too, like riding in the car with them to the store or prepping a meal together. If their judgment has decreased, there may be a problem. When looking at their home environment, you will want to be on the lookout for signs like spoiled food in the fridge or abnormal things like a scorched skillet that might suggest they left the stove on and forgot about it. An overflowing laundry basket may signify that they are not strong enough to lift and handle a large mass of clothes, or piles of clutter in a normally pristine household may be indicative of depression or other problems.  Perhaps a parent or grandparent is overwhelmed by the maintenance that comes with living in a house that is much too large for them, or they are having difficulty dealing with loneliness after losing a spouse. These feelings could be exacerbated when everyone leaves after the holidays.

Sometimes seniors want to move closer to their families, or they do not want to deal with the upkeep of a house anymore. Perhaps they want to travel and like the comfort that comes from knowing their place is being looked after, or maybe they simply want to downsize. Some families recognize that the social interactions that come from living in a retirement community can be comforting to a senior who has lost a spouse. There are a multitude of reasons why people move into senior living communities including access to increased socialization opportunities, wellness programs, priority access to healthcare services and enhanced dining options.

“Baptist Retirement Community is home to residents from their early 60’s to over 100,” said Feil-Duncan. “It is never too early or too late to make the transition. Sit down and have a family discussion. Work through your concerns and expectations together. Once you’re ready to explore your options, we suggest visiting communities of interest to get a feel for the culture and ambiance that embodies each one. Observe the residents. Are these people you would be friends with? Observe resident and staff member interactions. Observe the life enrichment calendar and common spaces, and make note of what you see that interests you. Attending a class or eating lunch at a dining venue are also great ways to see if a community is a good fit. If you’re the adult child and helping your loved one, ask yourself this: would you want to call this place home?”